Spinal and epidural anesthesia are medicines that numb parts of your body to block pain. They are given through shots in or around the spine. You will stay awake during both of these types of anesthesia.
The area of your back where the needle is inserted is cleaned with a special solution. Most of the time this shot goes in your lower back. This area may also be numbed with a local anesthetic. You may receive fluids through an intravenous line (IV) in a vein. You may also get medicine to help you relax.
The doctor who gives you epidural or spinal anesthesia is called an anesthesiologist.
For an epidural:
For a spinal:
Your pulse, blood pressure and oxygen levels in your blood are checked during the procedure. After the procedure you will have a bandage where the needle was inserted.
Spinal and epidural anesthesia have fewer side effects and risks than general anesthesia (asleep and pain-free). Patients usually recover their senses much faster. Sometimes, they have to wait for the anesthetic to wear off so that they can walk.
Spinal anesthesia is often used for genital, urinary tract, or lower body procedures.
Epidural anesthesia is often used during labor and delivery, and surgery in the pelvis and legs.
Epidural and spinal anesthesia are often used when:
Spinal and epidural anesthesia are generally safe. Ask your doctor about these possible complications:
Tell your doctor or nurse:
During the days before the procedure:
On the day of the procedure:
After an epidural, the catheter in your back is removed. You lie in bed until you have feeling in your legs and can walk. You may feel sick to your stomach and be dizzy. You may be tired.
After spinal anesthesia, you lie flat in bed for a few hours to keep from getting a headache. You may feel sick to your stomach and be dizzy. You may be tired.
Most patients feel no pain during spinal and epidural anesthesia and recover fully.
Intraspinal anesthesia; Subarachnoid anesthesia; Epidural; Peridural anesthesia
Miller RD, Eriksson LI, Fleisher LA, et al. Miller's Anesthesia. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Churchill-Livingstone; 2009.
Sherwood ER, Williams CG, Prough DS. Anesthesiology principles, pain management, and conscious sedation. In: Townsend CM, Beauchamp RD, Evers BM, Mattox KL, eds. Sabiston Textbook of Surgery. 19th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2012:chap 16.
Updated by: Louis S. Liou, MD, PhD, Chief of Urology, Cambridge Health Alliance, Visiting Assistant Professor of Surgery, Harvard Medical School. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.
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